A Roman-African, Saint Augustine was born on November 13, 354, in the town of Tagaste (renamed Souk-Ahras, in modern-day Algeria.) His mother was Monica, a devout Christian and his father Patricius, a Pagan who on his deathbed converted to Christianity. Augustine considered his mother integral to his life, and his father a stranger. His family were Berbers, an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa, but were Romanized and spoke only Latin in their home.
Augustine was a typical youth of his time and led a hedonistic lifestyle. He was the father of a son born out of wedlock, and eventually abandoned the mother and in so doing, the son. His attraction to “wine, women, and song,” led him from the church of his mother and his childhood. He, however, maintains that the name of Christ never left the recesses of his heart.
In 386 he traveled to Rome and Milan, where he met St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. St. Ambrose was an inspiration to Augustine and instrumental in his baptism. St. Monica found great peace and consolation in Augustine’s baptism and return to the church, both of which happened before her death.
St. Augustine was a man of brilliant mind and considerable rhetorical skills. He considered a career as an orator or lawyer, but then found a greater love of philosophy which he pursued with great fervor. Eventually, Augustine returned to Africa to live for God and hoped for a simple life of prayer, fasting, good works and meditation. However, the African town of Hippo called him as priest and bishop, and he reluctantly accepted. On the wall of his room there, written in large letters, were these wise words: Here we do not speak evil of anyone. He was devout, charitable, and friend of the poor.
St. Augustine lived until the age of seventy-five. He left us with Confessions, an account of his life and the nature of the times in which he lived. In his humility he declares, “Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold, Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.”